December 12, 2018

By Warren Patterson
LO President
Warren PattersonI just got back from a very intense, but productive strategic planning session, facilitated by Nathan Helder of Southbrook Consulting.

In the room was a very diverse group of seasoned Landscape Ontario members and home office staff who were forced to take a hard look at the association’s core values, purpose, and vision for the next 24 months. We were also tasked with identifying and prioritizing the strategies required to then achieve that vision.

As if that wasn’t enough, Nathan then challenged us to not only fit our value, purpose, vision and strategies into a concise, one-page document with the fewest words possible, but to also make that document simple enough for a sixth grader to understand.

If it sounds simple enough, I need to repeat our task once again just to emphasize it was the hardest thing we had to do: take our vision, ideas and thoughts and put them into the simplest of terms with the fewest words possible. Only then are we able to tell everyone what we want to do and how we are going to go about doing it. With that common understanding and direction, we are then all united in achieving our common goal.

Going through such an extensive self-reflection process rarely produces any big surprises or sudden revelations. But what it does do is provide an intense focus on what is needed in order to achieve the overall vision.

Our recent session was only the culmination of a very long process. Nathan began the strategic planning process by gathering information from LO’s past presidents. What better place to start than with the people who had the original vision, and who have the experience in working to make it into the success it is today. From there, Nathan gathered input from members, staff, sectors and chapters. He asked about LO’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats (called a SWOT analysis). The input gathered revealed that labour is by far the biggest challenge our members face. Finding skilled, qualified, available labour is what keeps our members up at night and what is holding them back from reaching their goals. And members look to the association to help them solve this problem.

This is not surprising. Finding skilled labour has been one of our foremost issues for over a decade. In many respects, this is not a bad problem to have. It means our services and products are in high demand. It means we are doing something right, but that as an association, we need to focus our thinking, energy and ideas on looking for new ways to deliver services to our members. We are fortunate that we have the staff, volunteers and resources available to achieve this vision.

If we are successful in achieving our vision, we will have positioned the association well for the future. We will continue to be relevant to our members.

I invite all LO members to attend this year’s Annual General Meeting on Jan. 9, 2019 to hear more details about our strategic vision for the future. Give your feedback, ideas and concerns. Listen to our simplified, yet important goal, and with just a few words, you too can help to achieve a more prosperous future for the landscape and horticulture profession.

Warren Patterson may be reached at